Jason Burchard is a co-founder at RootNote where they’re using data to help digital creators build better businesses.
Prior to jumping into the complex world of creator data, he co-founded one of the first equity-based investment firms that invests directly into creators, worked at a seed stage social impact venture capital firm in London, and consulted as a senior consultant at a Texas-based consultancy.
Jason holds a BSc in Civil Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and MSc in Management from the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Connect with Jason on LinkedIn.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- About RootNote
- The creator economy
- Importance of data
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:04] We’ll come back to the Startup Showdown podcast, where we discuss pitching, funding and scaling startups. Join us as we interview winners, mentors and judges of the monthly $120,000 pitch competition powered by Panoramic Ventures. We also discuss the latest updates in software web3, health care, tech, fintech and more. Now sit tight as we interview this week’s guest and their journey through entrepreneurship.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:38] Lee Kantor here another episode of Startup Showdown, and this is going to be a fun one. But before we get started, it’s important to recognize our sponsor, Panoramic Ventures. Without them, we couldn’t be sharing these important stories. Today on Startup Showdown, we have Jason Burchard with Rude Note. Welcome, Jason.
Jason Burchard: [00:00:55] Hey, Lee, it’s great to be here. Thanks so much for having me.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:57] Well, I’m so excited to learn what you’re up to. Tell us a little bit about Route Note. How are you serving folks?
Jason Burchard: [00:01:02] Yeah, so we’re building a business intelligence product for digital creators. There are over 640 million people in the world with over 1000 followers of what you would consider to be nano influencers. And we live in this crazy world today where literally anybody can build a brand around digital content. One of the things that we’ve kind of recognized over the past few years is that these creative businesses. They basically operate at the intersection of creativity, which is obviously paramount to the business and then data. And as you can imagine, the vast majority of creators who are building brands around the content, they’re not data scientists, they’re not data analysts, but they have to use it in their day to day business. So we we’re building a SAS product that makes data analytics and intelligence accessible to literally anyone and helps digital creators make better decisions using data.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:00] Now, a historically hasn’t I mean, people have been talking about data, big data. You know, this conversation has been going on for a long, long time in that regard. But when you kind of add an add on the creator piece and that creator is and I’m sure you’ve cast a wide net on who a creator is. Right? That could be a musician. That could be an artist. That could be a blogger like that. That term fits a lot of folks. How do you help them not only just capture the data, but make kind of actionable decisions based on the data? Because the data has always been there. It’s just a matter of how do you find what’s important and kind of ignore what’s not important and not get distracted by things that seem important but probably aren’t important?
Jason Burchard: [00:02:46] That’s a great point. It’s one of the challenges that we’re we’re kind of faced with in 2022 is that there is a ton of data that’s available. Huge corporations have been facing this forever. And the reality is that anyone who’s trying to build a business around their content, what’s e-commerce and everything else, they have to be paying attention to social media numbers, engagement across multiple platforms. If you are a podcast or you’re creating music, you’ve got to be paying attention to who’s listening to you on Spotify or Apple or Pandora or all of the different content streaming sites. If you’re a live streamer, you’re looking at what your average watch time and view time is on Twitch. There are all of these very complex analytics that factor in in a business that ultimately you need to understand one kind of looking at what’s actually driving revenue when wherever we’re looking at somebody’s Shopify, their E Commerce platform or their MailChimp email is really understanding kind of what those metrics are. And you really hit the nail on the head there. The question is, how do you actually make all of this data actionable? And one of the things that we realized early on is because data is all over the place, it’s really, really hard to even understand where to begin. So the first step in what we’re first kind of solving is just that challenge of getting all of this data into one place just like any other company or business would need. And the second part of that is making data actionable.
Jason Burchard: [00:04:10] One of the first things that we’re doing there is we’re helping creators build out their suite of products. And services are what we’re calling a creator stack. As you can imagine, there is so much information out there about different products and platforms and services, and anyone running a small or medium sized business can tell you how overwhelming that process can be. So the first thing that we’re doing is using data and generating basically the ability and kind of telling people what other platforms and products and services that they can look towards that will help them. From there, we’re diving deeper into engagement, analytics, benchmarking. One of the fundamental questions that we want to enable every user to be able to answer is just simply, is this working? And I challenge you to ask the vast majority of creators if they can tell you whether or not a particular strategy is or isn’t working without really diving into that data. So that’s moving beyond just kind of the stack building. We’re getting into more of the kind of prescriptive and predictive analytics when it comes to forecasting future earnings and understanding what some of those kind of key revenue drivers are. And eventually, obviously, we’ll be going full circle and in the end cost data as well so that we can start looking at ROI on various marketing campaigns and initiatives. But it all starts at one place and that’s that’s getting the information into a centralized location.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:39] So how did this problem get on your radar to solve? Like, what’s your back story? How did this subject matter become of interest for you?
Jason Burchard: [00:05:50] So if you would have asked me five years ago if I would be building a SAS platform, I would have told you no way. I actually started my career in consulting later, work in social impact venture capital and based on my experiences, experiences in those areas, I got really fascinated by this idea of building an equity based investment model for investing in creators like startups. So my initial kind of objective with being an entrepreneur was to help scale a more capital efficient model for kind of supporting creative entrepreneurs. What we learned in that process was that there is this huge, huge challenge with data creators. We’re doing very complex businesses around multiple recurring income streams, and nobody had a great picture of their kind of company when it came to data. So that’s kind of what inspired us. We were actually looking for a solution ourselves to help kind of consolidate all of this data. As I was doing due diligence and trying to help our portfolio companies understand how they were doing. And we couldn’t find anything out there in the market. And once we realized that this was a really large problem that we weren’t facing alone. And then no one has built the solution yet. We decided that it’d be a good opportunity for us to take it on.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:16] Now, when you’re dealing with creators, you’re not dealing typically with, you know, the hyper technical person. This is a person that, you know, wants to create something and wants to focus primarily in their dream of dreams, to be a creator and not be a data scientist, like you said, are you able to is your platform or do you aspire for your platform to be something where that this creative person can say, you know what, if I push on these three levers, I am going, my dream will come true, you know, or if I avoid this lever over here, that’s going to be better than than doing something else. Like it’s simplified to the point where I know kind of what to do each day.
Jason Burchard: [00:08:00] Yeah, that’s a great point. One of the things that we really want to be able to help people do is just understand what is and wasn’t, what is and what is not working. Because as you can imagine, the challenge of running a business around content is that it’s incredibly time intensive and you really don’t have a lot of bandwidth to spend on digging into the finer details. So our mission is to make data analytics accessible to literally anyone and make it as easy as just plugging in your data and getting started from day one. One of our advisors and investors likes to think of the product as a as a data scientist in your pocket. And obviously we have a ways to go before we get into the full functionality and building everything that we can out with ML and I. But yeah, the basic tenant is going to be using using data to help creators make better business decisions in a way that’s very easy to understand and use. Obviously, we’re building a B2B product because we do see creators as small and medium sized businesses, but the B in this case behaves a lot more like a C or consumer. So the challenge is building something that is so simple and easy and intuitive to use that anyone is comfortable trying it, but also complex and robust enough to handle the challenge of doing real technical data, insights and analysis.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:32] So walk me through. I’m a creator. How like, what do I do to, you know, input data into the system? And then what is kind of a dashboard or some of the actionable information going to look like?
Jason Burchard: [00:09:47] Yeah. So we think about data and kind of three different buckets. We think about social data, we think about streaming data, which can be any type of content streaming data. And then we think about revenue data. And so as a creator, whenever you first sign up for the product, you’re effectively invited to go over to the My Accounts page, where based on the platforms that we currently integrate with and support, you can start going down the list and connecting your accounts. This is the MVP version of our product. We’re actually getting ready to launch version 2.0 of the product where in addition to connecting accounts that you already have and that you are currently using, we’re actually starting to build in the ability for us to recommend date recommend platforms based on what we know about your career. One of the other challenges that most creators face, and I think what a lot of intelligence and analytics platforms fail to provide is context to data. So one of the things that we’re doing from a very early stage is we’re enabling creators to go in and set goals around specific KPIs, whether that is growing, let’s say a specific social media channel like TikTok or it’s reaching a certain number of streamers on a platform like YouTube or Spotify or Twitch, really providing context to that data so that we can also start curating content specifically kind of educational walk through content that we actually create ourselves as well on how to do things to enhance whatever platform you’re targeting or going after. So those are the first kind of initial insights, is providing context to data, providing education around that content, and then also helping creators to build out their, their, their stats in the future. In the near future, we’re going to be effectively scaling some of the things that we’ve been doing on a manual basis. We’re actually we’ve been going in and running some very specific analyzes on creator accounts and making very specific recommendations. We’ll be building that into the actual tech stack itself as we continue this journey from our pre-seed to seed state.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:04] So now say I’m on TikTok and that’s my platform that I use and I’m trying to obviously grow my followers. I’m trying to monetize in some manner, I guess by advertising. I guess that’s a typical way and say I have a million followers. What is some of the information that you’d be able to glean from that? And what like are you going to tell me, oh, you know what, you should post, you know, ten times a week, not seven, or you should post try posting in the evening more, not the morning or partner with these five influencers. Like, like what type of information is going to come out of your, your platform?
Jason Burchard: [00:12:45] Yeah, that’s a great question. So, you know, first and foremost, obviously, the engagement that we can glean from TikTok, so so follower growth, engagement data, one of the things that we’ve recognized from an early stage in our early beta test is that the vast majority of creators, they don’t know how they’re doing relative to how they should be doing. So if I say, Hey, Lee, you’ve got a 5% engagement rate on TikTok, you’re sitting there thinking, okay, great. I think maybe, is that good? Is that bad? And if you’re not truly familiar with the platform and how things work in reality, that that’s not that great. Tiktok generally has a much higher engagement rate. However, if I said, Lee, you’ve got a 5% engagement rate on Instagram, you know, you should be jumping up and down because that’s that’s incredible. And so helping kind of understand how the creators understand that question is what you’re doing in this platform specifically working. And then if we can target those areas, once we’ve identified what your engagement rate is, that is the opportunity to go in and say, hey, you know, you are you’re doing great. You’re you’re compared to everyone else. You’re right on track. You’re you’re doing fantastically. Keep it up. Or if we know that you’re kind of over under indexing based on the data that we’re saying we can start recommending area of improvement. Now as far as the you should post more, you should post less. I think there are some other platforms out there that are doing a great job of that. We certainly do want to get into that space as well. But for right now, it’s more about comparing your engagement rate on tick tock compared to that to your engagement rates on Facebook and Instagram. And then looking at some of your other various channels, whether that’s your YouTube or or Twitch or Shopify or we’re finding that we can be most helpful right now to users who are building their their content across multiple platforms as opposed to necessarily just one platform specifically.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:52] So you’re giving me context in terms of how I’m doing relative to how others are doing in the same platform. So I can say, you know what, maybe I should invest more time here than there because I’m already getting more traction there.
Jason Burchard: [00:15:06] Exactly. And it’s one of those things, if we are able to create an account for you and then we recognize that you haven’t connected your email list, that actually gives us an opportunity to start kind of telling you about other products and services, whether that’s MailChimp or SendGrid or there’s tens to hundreds of them at this point of different email providers where you can start focusing on building your brand outside of just one specific channel. Because the reality is, is as a creator, the more that you can do to own your audience or your community or your data, the better. Position you’re going to be in the long haul when it comes to ultimately monetizing your brand.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:52] Yeah, if you can figure that out and really encourage creators, I talk to them all the time and that’s one of my big pet peeves is you’re going to have to bring as many people off any of these third party platforms as possible into your own ecosystem. So you better figure out a way to do that.
Jason Burchard: [00:16:08] Absolutely. It is about building organic, true relationships with a niche community. And it’s it’s been said over and over again the value of having 1000 true fans, you know, 1000 true fans who are paying $100 a year, you know, it’s $100,000 a year as a creator. So it’s one of those it’s not a small opportunity for the ones who can capitalize on true community and relationships.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:42] Now, when you built this business, you built it with your brother. Can you talk about how that came up and kind of maybe share some advice about going on an adventure like this with a family member?
Jason Burchard: [00:16:55] Yeah, absolutely. I would say my brother Jeremy is amazing. Fantastic. We’re very different. I think that’s one of the reasons why we work so well together is that we we have very different backgrounds. Jeremy has actually been a professional creator for over a decade. He’s got a band, he’s on Spotify, YouTube. He actually just completed an accelerator program run by a large creator, economy focused company. And he’s very much a thought leader in this space. He’s been a music journalist as well and interviewed everyone from Leon produced Taylor Swift and in between. So he is very much our kind of ideal user and use case. So working with him provides a level of context that I am incredibly grateful for that we have. He is a frequent beta tester of a lot of new features of these different social platforms and backends of different products. So I think that through him we have a very good eye for the problem and lens as far as as working together. As I mentioned, we are very different, which I think lends itself well to a very collaborative relationship. I like to describe myself as the spreadsheets and PowerPoint guy, and he’s he’s the technical title’s chief creative officer. So he writes all of our original content and everything kind of relevant to the creatives that we’re serving. So as far as advice, you know, we I think we’ve always had a unique relationship. I think that one of the things that I’ve had to learn is not to be not to be the big brother, let’s be the business partner. So I think I’ve had a few missteps in that regard, but I’ve learned over time how to kind of separate the two things. And I think one of the challenges is always separating. Work from personal and family. And that’s I mean, I’ll be honest, I don’t think we’ve done a great job of that. We most of our conversations do rely or revolve around the business, but trying to get better at separating those as well.
Lee Kantor: [00:19:14] Yeah, I’ve done a lot of shows with family owned businesses and that dynamic, you know, of turning it off at the holidays, you know, with your family around you or other siblings. I don’t know if you have other siblings that aren’t involved in the in this. You know, it gets a little tricky. And, you know, you have to be mindful and you have to, you know, kind of walls around things just for your own mental health.
Jason Burchard: [00:19:38] Absolutely. And what you bring up about mental health is paramount, because obviously, you know that there’s nothing there’s nothing fast about building a company or a startup together as much as we’re led to believe, it’s a pretty long journey. So and I will say to you, it’s been great having a co-founder who I’ve had the luxury of knowing for, I guess, 33 years, 32 years. So I think that there are benefits to that when you really understand how somebody works before you have an opportunity to actually work with them in a professional capacity.
Lee Kantor: [00:20:21] Yeah, I mean, you get you get the benefit is obviously the trust is there and the watching of each other’s back is there. The negative might be that sometimes you’re fighting about issues that took place when you were ten and it’s just a, you know, kind of a new version of that.
Jason Burchard: [00:20:36] Yeah, there’s there can certainly be some ingrained behaviors from growing up together, but yeah, so, so far, so good.
Lee Kantor: [00:20:47] Now talk about why you decided to take part in Startup Showdown. How did that get on your radar and why was it important for you to kind of go through that process?
Jason Burchard: [00:20:56] Yeah. So we’re we’re we’re based in Nashville, Tennessee, and we’re always looking. Obviously different opportunities to work with different partners and obviously throughout the US but also in the Southeast and panoramic popped up on our radar as an individual, an innovative fund based out of Atlanta. And we kind of stumbled upon them and then saw that they had this this startup showdown kind of pitching competition and seemed like a really interesting opportunity for us to get out and get in front of a new audience and really just kind of test our ideas, test the pitch and kind of see what the general reception was to it. So yeah, it was a great opportunity to get out there and I was thrilled to hear that they were launching a podcast and have continue to the narrative and the journey of sharing startup stories.
Lee Kantor: [00:21:54] So what was kind of the most beneficial part of the startup shutdown process? Was there anything, any kind of intel you gleaned or anything that you were able to say, Oh, that’s really good. Let’s focus more on that or less of this.
Jason Burchard: [00:22:09] Yeah. I think I think anytime you have the opportunity to really work with a team who is used to seeing thousands and thousands of pitches and refine your pitch in front of a team, I think it’s fantastic. That was a great opportunity to get in front of them in multiple rounds and get constructive and helpful feedback. I think as founders we can live in an echo chamber sometimes and so it’s nice to get that that outside perspective in a really safe and encouraging environment. And then as far as kind of post pitching competition, it also led to some visibility. We actually met a journalist who ended up wanting to write a story about us after the competition, and that actually ended up turning into some organic relationships with strategic investment partners. And it ended up kind of really broadening our visibility in the greater Atlanta area, which was fantastic for us. Obviously being based in Nashville.
Lee Kantor: [00:23:16] So what’s next for root note? What do you need more of? How can we help?
Jason Burchard: [00:23:22] Yeah, well, thank you for asking me. We are in the middle of actually closing out a pre-seed round right now. We’re getting ready to launch the second iteration of our platform. So we’ve been experimenting with our MVP for the past year and have gotten some really incredible feedback from our early beta users, and we’ve been incorporating that into the next launch of the product. So very excited to get that out there. We were getting ready to release a mobile version, which we’re incredibly excited about. Obviously, working with creators is very important and then excited to get this fundraising round close so that we can get back to get back to building and to the business development.
Lee Kantor: [00:24:06] So if somebody wants to connect with you or your team or take a look at Root now, what is the website.
Jason Burchard: [00:24:12] Yeah, the website is going to be WW W dot root node dot co. So that’s dot co. And then they are also free to email me at JSON at root noko as well.
Lee Kantor: [00:24:26] Well, Jason, thank you so much for sharing your story today. You’re doing important work and we appreciate you.
Jason Burchard: [00:24:30] All right. Thank you so much for giving me the time. We.
Lee Kantor: [00:24:33] All right. This is Lee Kantor. We’ll see you next time on Startup Showdown.
Intro: [00:24:38] As always, thanks for joining us. And don’t forget to follow and subscribe to the Startup Showdown podcast. So you get the latest episode as it drops wherever you listen to podcasts to learn more and apply to our next startup Showdown Pitch Competition Visit Showdown VC. That’s Showdown Dot VC. All right, that’s all for this week. Goodbye for now.